Two weekends ago I visited the Laurel Hill Cemetery located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the first time to see The Divine Hand Ensemble perform funerary music. Billed as Music for the Hearing Eye: Concert Atop the Crypts, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it sounded creepy and fun. There is no better place to hear funerary music than in an old cemetery that is not only the final resting place of Civil War generals, but also of six Titanic passengers.
Fronted by theraminist Mano Divina, the string ensemble performed two sets. The first half was a mix of opera, movie tunes such as Edward Scissorhands, and other recognizable songs such as Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” and Queen’s “Who Wants to Live Forever.” There was even a harp duet. The audience were also treated to dancing and readings of Edgar Allan Poe poetry courtesy of Dr. Sketchy’s Lovely Lolitas, who were dressed in Day of the Dead finery.
After a 15-minute intermission, the group continued with all funerary music, timed to sundown. For the final song, the violinist and vocalists climbed to the top of the crypt to perform “I’ll Fly Away” next to the angel statue.
The program was a wonderful, moving experience. The last song finished at sundown, the bats in the trees taking flight at its conclusion. If we felt otherworldly leaving the concert, we were quickly reminded we were in Philadelphia as we passed the “grave” of Adrian Balboa. I hope to see this group again at the cemetery next year, it’s not to be missed, especially if you enjoy all things dark and spooky. However, if you have a chance to see them in another venue, be sure to check them out.